Disability and Family: Tips for Celebrating Ramadan

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Amina and her mom, Zena, share tips and insight on how to support kids and youth with disabilities in their discovery of their Muslim faith and spirituality.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world demonstrate their resilience and spiritual devotion by fasting. Many people commit to fasting from dawn until dusk for thirty days as an opportunity to reflect. However, some people are unable to sustain this without jeopardizing their health and well-being.

Zena’s Perspective

As a parent, caring for two disabled daughters with cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia, has been one of the hardest jobs. I have always made it my goal to ensure that my girls had the same opportunities afforded to them as everyone else. However, the reality of raising twins with disabilities, is that even though you want to give them the world, it is not always easy without the aid of a community around you.

There are many misconceptions and cultural biases when it comes to people with disabilities, especially as a Muslim family.  Some of our extended family members believed that it was a “curse” to have a child with a disability. We were seen to be less fortunate, and our Islamic community tried not to include us in the mosque. However, the five pillars of Islam have accommodations set for those who have an illness or disability, allowing for an adaption in the instance where they are not able to physically perform their prayers or fast during Ramadan.

For those that are not familiar the five pillars of Islam, here are the core belief systems and practices of Islam:

  • Profession of Faith (shahada)
  • Prayer (salat)
  • Alms (zakat)
  • Fasting (sawm)
  • Pilgrimage (hajj)

Amina’s Perspective

As a youth, my parents and maternal grandmother explained that daily prayers can be completed using my wheelchair or I could adapt to do what worked best for me. For Muslim families experiencing disability, incorporating the traditions of Ramadan, while balancing the needs of a disabled child, can be extremely challenging. This can lead to disabled family members feeling excluded, despite having a recognized exemption.

As two Muslim women living in Canada, my sister and I have had the opportunity to view Islam through an intersectional lens. I am relieved that my parents let us choose our own spiritual path and discover ways to safety practice our faith. I am also thankful that my family members were open-minded Muslims. I urge everyone to become more understanding and accepting of those living with disabilities, as it will help us build a stronger community.

Tips for Observing Ramadan as a Person with Disabilities

Zena and Amina created strategies to help parents, kids and youth observe Ramadan, while celebrating disability. These include:

1.    Diagnosis does not mean complete exclusion. With a bit of creativity and motivation, you can include your child in every part of life, religion, school, sports, even if it doesn’t look the same way as you expected- that includes celebrating Ramadan!

2.    Ask for help. You may feel that you are alone in your struggle as a parent of a disabled child, but you are not. In many instances the people around us want to be included, but just don’t know how to ask. Be receptive to others by asking for help and it will open a whole new world of inclusion for your family.

3.    Children can do anything! Yes, your child can do anything that other children are doing, they will just have to do it in their own way. Get creative with your ideas. The Qur’an has laid out how a person who is disabled can perform the daily prayers of Namaz. Work with your imam at your mosque to learn how to include your child as an active member of the mosque and its community.

4.    Disability does not define identity. Your child has the right to live a full life to their best of their ability. Become an advocate for your child and demand changes in your community. It is your right to have your faith nurtured and included as one part of your identity.

5.    Exemptions are valid. Due to some health conditions, fasting during Ramadan may not be possible.

6.    Hear us, do not fear us. In the Qur'an, it is said that prophet Muhammad (PBUH) spoke about disabilities by saying, “don’t stare at people”. This has interpreted to mean that we should not be disrespectful to those with disabilities, stare at them or ask questions. It is important to be respectful to others and treat them as your equal.

7.    Learning from one another. Our family tries to educate communities on how to understand the limitations in how we perform the five pillars affects us. Each person with a disability is unique and have their own challenges. It is essential for them to have support when needed and practice the Islamic pillars in ways that spiritually fulfil them.

8.    Celebrate difference! Be grateful that we have so many different children in the world. What a gift! This is the essence of being a Muslim and we need to remember that.

9.    Play a positive role in our community. We can rise to the challenge of making our mosques and our community more accessible to all Muslims. By making changes together, we can become more modern in methods of practice.

10.    Be a collaborative ally. Practice patience when supporting kids and youth with disabilities. The only way we can grow and become a better society is to connect and create space for respectful conversations about spirituality and disability. It is through this that we will be able to develop strategies so that all Muslim people feel accepted by their community.  

We feel fortunate that we have been able to build and share our thoughts about our parent-child relationship centred on the discovery of spiritual practice and childhood community engagement for families impacted by disability. We hope that our experiences as a mother and daughter give you practical tips and strategies to build more connections during the holy month of Ramadan.

Thank you to our guest writers:
Amina Aumeer is a social work student at York University and a CTN Family Advisory Committee and Board Community Committee Member. She currently volunteers with different organizational teams and believes in equity for all to thrive within their communities.
Zena Aumeer
is a devoted mother to three wonderful adult children. She has been a direct-service social worker for the past 20 years, where she has had the opportunity to work as a social assistance worker, a residential worker and a shelter worker. Zena has dedicated her life to advocating for clients coping with challenges at various stages of their lives, by providing as many resources as possible.